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Director’s Desk:
What a Difference a Cover Makes

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We’ve just completed two of our major trade shows of the year (Book Expo America/BEA and the American Library Association annual conference/ALA). I was amazed to observe something consistently happening at our booth at both shows. Each year, we produce the PMA Resource Directory to hit the market directly before BEA. Every year, the directory has grown in size. In the past two years, I watched while many booksellers and/or librarians stopped by our booth during BEA and ALA, looked at the information contained in our 200+-page, 8-1/2 x 11 book, and then asked, “Can you send this to me after the show? It’s too heavy to carry.” Well, of course, we sent the directories after the show, but it was costly. We would rather have had them take it from our booth.

This year, we arrived with our 264-page directory and watched in astonishment as bookseller after bookseller and librarian after librarian came to our booth and took the directory from our table and placed it in their shopping bags or backpacks. Now, the book did not get any lighter in weight this year. What was the difference? I believe it was purely in the design of this year’s front cover.

Abacus Graphics of Carlsbad, California, has been the PMA design team for the past several years now. Each year, we have fun designing the Resource Directory, the Publishing University brochure, and the Benjamin Franklin Call for Entries (which was included in your last month’s newsletter). John Webster and Francie Droll (a husband and wife design team) come up with some incredible concepts, which, thanks to the Internet, we can preview on their Web site and then work together to reach a design we all like. Last month, we also premiered the new

So, when anyone ever asks me if the cover really makes that much of a difference, I’ll remember the trade shows of 2001, when we had empty directory boxes at the end of the shows, instead of full ones!

About Those Deep Discounts to Amazon

“Disappearing Discounts:

Amazon Ups Prices in Exchange for Free Shipping”

(From Publishers Weekly’s Electronic Newsletter)

“Well, the deed is done: after years of slowly eroding discounts at online

retailers, Amazon.com has finally begun selling most titles at full price.

Gone are most of the hefty across the board discounts that threatened real

world retailers at the height of the Internet boom. Now the company appears

willing to compete exclusively on the grounds of selection and convenience,

rather than price.

“Under Amazon’s new price structure, backlist titles and the majority of

non-bestselling frontlist titles are being sold at full retail cost, New

York Times bestsellers remain 40% off, and shipping is free when two or

more books are ordered at the same time.”

I received the above communication recently and almost instantly my phone began ringing off the hook.

“Why,” the callers asked, “is Amazon doing this now? We’re giving them good discounts.” Well, for one thing, I think we all have known that this company must begin to show a profit fairly soon or their concept will collapse. Also, I’ve always wondered about the deep discounts publishers were allowing the Internet providers of goods, when these companies have no sales forces to support, limited storage of second-tier titles, and limited dollar commitments to marketing. Part of the explanation was in the publishers’ desire to find another outlet for their titles, I’m sure; but another part of it was about chasing the never-ending dream, searching for the place that would sell literally thousands of titles. Well, Amazon is selling thousands of books. Meanwhile, many independent presses are seeing some increases, but not the numbers they thought they might.

Amazon.com is offering its (our) customers free freight now, but not deep discounts. Guess who is paying for that free freight? We are, through our allowed deep discounts.

Moral: The next time a deal seems too good to be true, think long and hard, and, more important, long-range on all the possible repercussions before you offer more than you should.

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